Anxiety is a feeling of uneasiness and apprehension over normal life stressors, like beginning a new job or taking a test. When anxiety becomes overwhelming, it can interfere with a person’s physical and mental health and is then referred to as an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorders may involve frequent episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear that can peak within minutes (anxiety attack or panic attack). The anxiety is out of proportion to the stressful situation or happens when there is no real danger. These episodes can interfere with daily activities and often are difficult to control.
Anxiety: what you should know
Common signs of anxiety include the following:
- Feelings of impending panic, danger or doom
- Rapid breathing
- Increased heart rate
- Weakness or fatigue
- Trouble concentrating
- People with chronic (long-term) anxiety have a higher risk of physical and mental health problems because of how anxiety activates the body’s stress response. The body’s cells, tissues and organs go on high alert, resulting in a general “wearing down” of the body.
- Physical complaints such as a headache or racing heart may actually be symptoms related to anxiety.
How can I get help for anxiety?
Contact your primary care doctor if you experience any of the following:
- You feel you’re worrying too much or find your fears upsetting
- Your worrying interferes with your work, relationships and other aspects of your life
- You think you also have depression
- You are relying on alcohol and other drugs to cope with your fears
- You believe you may have a physical problem related to your anxiety
- You begin having suicidal thoughts or behavior